AMA to form gun violence task force for safety advocacy, litigation

‘We cannot continue to live this way,’ association president says a day after shooting kills three at University of Virginia.

The American Medical Association (AMA) hopes a new task force will curb firearm deaths in the United States.

AMA members adopted the policy Nov. 14 in the organization’s interim meeting of its house of delegates. The task force will focus on firearm violence prevention, including suicide involving guns, and AMA will collaborate with state and specialty medical groups to increase litigation over firearm safety.

In a published statement, AMA President Jack Resneck Jr., MD, referred to the June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that claimed the lives of 49 people and injured 58. That incident prompted AMA physician and medical school delegates to declare firearm violence a public health crisis in the United States.

The night before the AMA vote, another tragic shooting took place on the campus of the University of Virginia, Resneck said. National and local news outlets reported three football players there were shot and the university was on lockdown for hours until a 22-year-old former football player was in custody as a suspect.

“We cannot continue to live this way,” Resneck said in a statement. “Our children spend portions of school days running active shooter drills, knowing full well their classroom could be next. In movie theaters, houses of worship, hospitals, big cities and small towns, firearm violence has shattered any sense of security and taken lives.

“As physicians and healers, we are committed to ending firearm violence by advocating for common-sense, evidence-based solutions, and this task force will be key to that ongoing effort,” Resneck said.

In the last 20 years, AMA has made at least 30 policy recommendations about guns as a threat to public health and safety. Proposals range from waiting periods and background checks for firearm purchases, to gun safety counseling with patients and gun safety materials available in clinical settings.

AMA has not been alone in condemning gun violence and calling for policies to address it. The American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Hospital Association all have denounced firearm violence and demanded legislative action to improve health and safety across the nation.